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Velva Jean Learns to Drive | [Jennifer Niven]

Velva Jean Learns to Drive

Set in Appalachia in the years before World War II, Velva Jean Learns to Drive is a poignant story of a spirited young girl growing up in the gold-mining and moonshining South. Before she dies, Velva Jean's mother urges her to "live out there in the great wide world." Velva Jean dreams of becoming a big-time singer in Nashville until she falls in love with Harley Bright, a handsome juvenile delinquent turned revival preacher.
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Publisher's Summary

Set in Appalachia in the years before World War II, Velva Jean Learns to Drive is a poignant story of a spirited young girl growing up in the gold-mining and moonshining South. Before she dies, Velva Jean's mother urges her to "live out there in the great wide world".

Velva Jean dreams of becoming a big-time singer in Nashville until she falls in love with Harley Bright, a handsome juvenile delinquent turned revival preacher. As their tumultuous love story unfolds, Velva Jean must choose between keeping her hard-won home and pursuing her dream of singing in the Grand Ole Opry.

©2009 Jenniver Niven; (P)2009 Penguin

What the Critics Say

"It's a touching read, funny and wise, like a crazy blend of Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, a less morose Flannery O'Connor and maybe a shot of Hank Williams." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (389 )
5 star
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4.2 (282 )
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4.6 (286 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Susan Rock Hill, SC, United States 12-17-09
    Susan Rock Hill, SC, United States 12-17-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    209
    ratings
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    150
    67
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    "If Jenna Lamia reads it, I'll listen to it!"

    And once again, she doesn't disappoint. Of course, I have to give Jennifer Niven some credit since she wrote this wonderful story. The characters and the plot are so real. It could happen in your own back yard. Although I felt like it was a little slow at first, I quickly became hooked to the characters, especially Velva Jean herself. Highly recommend it!

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Hampden, ME, United States 10-11-11
    Susan Hampden, ME, United States 10-11-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    14
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    2
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    Story
    "GREAT!"

    Honestly, one of the best books I've listened to!
    Ranks up there with The Help, The Kitchen House, etc.
    Good storyline, good characters, well written - what more could you ask for?
    Well performed as well, by Jenna Lamia.
    Just a really, really good read - I promise - you won't be disappointed!

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 04-03-13
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 04-03-13 Member Since 2009

    Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ""Old-timey" story with a Southern Accent - Great!"

    First off, I must agree with the other reviewers who rave about Jenna Lamia's narration - I could listen to her forever - she is downright melodic in her delivery. The author did a fabulous job of marrying the scenic, rugged background of the hill folk with the life story of the main character. This book is about a young girl growing up in the Appalachia in the 1930's-40's. She experiences hardship and joy - love and loss - despair and hope - all the things that make for a rich and meaningful story. I really enjoyed this selection and will recommend it to anyone longing for a journey back in time with the added bonus of it being "G-rated" for the most part and appropriate for younger listeners. My grandmother lived a similar life and this book made me feel closer to her, even though she has passed on. Folks were just tougher back in those old days - life was hard but the rewards were so much sweeter for it - makes you realize how much we take for granted in this day and age.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Atlanta, GA 12-01-09
    Amazon Customer Atlanta, GA 12-01-09 Member Since 2003

    ShootingFish

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This should win an Audie Award"

    I loved this book. Like the prior reviewer, it kept my attention from beginning to end. Jenna Lamia is one of my favorite narrators, and southern literature suits her voice. This book ranks right up there with Secret Life of Bees (also narrated by Lamia) and The Help (Lamia is a narrator here, too.). This is the first fiction book by this author, which can't be her last. She ties all the "little stories" in the book together with a very easy to listen to style. And no, it's not about driving. Highly recommend this one.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James & Sheila 07-22-11 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Entertaining and interesting"

    Velva Jean is an interesting listen and even a bit inspiring. It's set in the Depression era, but the author accurately reflects the 'life as usual' for families and communities who had already lived in poverty for generations. The blend of Christianity with mountain folk lore and superstition was amusing. Of course the narrator, Jenna Lamia, could read a telephone book aloud and manage to hold my attention. I found it both entertaining as well as interesting.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 05-23-14
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 05-23-14 Member Since 2013

    Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Singin', Preachin', and Livin' in the South"

    This is the best of the best of southern fiction, set before WWII, at a time in our history when women weren't supposed to have dreams of their own. The narration MAKES this audio book . . . the story is there, poignant and sweet . . . Velva Jean is still a kid when she loses her mama . . . and her daddy can't stop his wandering for nothing . . . Some people may think that the book makes light of Christianity, but not me . . . it pretty much tells it like it is here in the south . . . God is real, but not all His followers ARE FOR REAL. Guess it's pretty much like that all over. All the things that happen in the mountains during the depression, how a moonshiner's son, turned preacher steals Velva Jean's heart, and then her dreams . . . well, it makes for such a rich and varied tale of greed, pride, selfishness, wisdom and love . . . you sure don't wanna miss it.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan palm Bay, FL, USA 05-28-10
    Susan palm Bay, FL, USA 05-28-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    "Wonderful book!!!!"

    I loved this book! I was sad when it had to end. The narrator is the absolute best! I hope the auther writes more books soon, maybe a part II of Velva Jean?

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L.W. 12-06-13
    L.W. 12-06-13

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Only Jenna Lamia...."

    This story didn't develop for me. I LOVE Jenna Lamia's narration or I might have left this one at midpoint. It is a story about a family in the Great Smokey Mountains before paved roads, etc. They were poor and clannish, very superstitious, and I did enjoy the lore that followed them. Otherwise, for me it was somewhat lacking in the story department. It is worth the credit to listen to Ms. Lamia.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary California, MD, United States 04-04-12
    Mary California, MD, United States 04-04-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Engaging, endearing, captivating"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I dread the end of this audio book. I've enjoyed every minute of it. Even my drive to work has been something I've looked forward to. I absolutely love Jenna Lamia, who totally captures the unique personalities, both male and female, of each character. She's amazing.

    Jennifer's Niven's writing is so well done, transporting the listener to another place, another time. THe only way I can face the end of this book is the knowledge that another follows. Thank you for the distinct pleasure of listening to this tale!


    What other book might you compare Velva Jean Learns to Drive to and why?

    The Secret LIfe of Bees


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Too many to choose one.


    Who was the most memorable character of Velva Jean Learns to Drive and why?

    Definitely Velva Jean, but her grandparents and Johnny Clay were also admirable.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dawn Delran, NJ, United States 11-14-11
    Dawn Delran, NJ, United States 11-14-11 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    4
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    "Thoroughly enjoyable!"

    This is a great story and the narration was superb. I truly could not stop listening. As soon the book finished I immediately downloaded the next one.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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